EVENT TRANSCRIPT: President Ronald Reagan Memorial Forum
DATE: Wednesday November 14, 2018
VENUE: U.S. Embassy, 33 Nine Elms Lane, London SW11 7US
SPEAKER: Gideon Rachman, Lyse Doucet, Roger Zakheim, Tom Tugendhat
EVENT CHAIR: Marc Leland
Mendoza – Thank you Ambassador Johnson and thank you to the U.S. Embassy for hosting today’s event. I am Alan Mendoza from the Henry Jackson Society, one of the sponsoring parties today along with the President Reagan memorial Fund Trust. We do indeed have a very interesting discussion for you. The topic is Reagan’s Foreign Policy Legacy and the future of the transatlantic relationship. What we had in mind by doing this and by calling this the Ronald Reagan Memorial Forum is that it has been 30 years essentially since Reagan has been in power which is a good amount of time to address his work and legacy but I think the contemporary part which the Ambassador mentioned is key as well. There have been questions marks over the transatlantic relationship today and there are lessons from that time which play out and can help us understand some of the things in international affairs today. In order to unpick that we have a very distinguished panel who are going to take you through their views on the subject.
I am going to start on the far side of the panel. Tom Tugendhat MBE MP, chairman of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee, serving Member of Parliament for Tonbridge and Malling. He was a military man before his career in parliamentary career; he left the army as a colonel having served in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and ended up as Military Assistant to Chief of the Defence Staff. You will see him today, not only in the chamber of the House of Commons but also across various media outlets where he is a prolific writer and thinker on numerous subjects. Welcome Tom.
Next to him is Gideon Rachman, the foreign affairs columnist for the Financial Times, a position he has held since July 2006 so quite an interesting decade and a bit observing what has gone on since then. Before then, he was at the economist for 15 years and was a correspondent in Brussels, Washington and Bangkok, but also edited the Economist Business in Asia section so really we can call you a globalist. Can we not?
Lyse Doucet, award winning chief international correspondent and senior presenter for BBC world news television and World Service Radio. Of course radio deployed across the world to report on the latest crisis and what is happening and seen here on screens here domestically. She of course most recently covered the Arab Spring and its repercussions. I think you have covered every major event in the Middle East for 20 years and before that 15 years as a correspondent.
Lastly, Roger Zakheim, a great friend of mine, but he is not here in that capacity. He is here as the Washington Director for the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute. His previous role includes co-chair of public policy and government affairs at the law firm (inaudible) and deputy assistant secretary of defense in the George W Bush Administration.
Last, but certainly not least. We have a very distinguished chair, possibly the only person who knew Reagan well in this room. Mark Leland certainly has that claim, having served as assistant secretary for international affairs in the U.S. department of treasure under Reagan. He also served in every Republican Administration since Nixon so a tremendous amount of expertise. He has also been active in the Think Tank world and public policy. He was a board member for the US institute for Peace. He has for many years been the co-chair for the German Marshal Fund and is still a senior advisor to Chatham House. He is a committed transatlanticist and will be taking us through the next part so please give our panel a very warm welcome.
Mark Leland – I was asked by Alan to give a brief introduction. I did not plan my speech with the ambassador, but it does fit in perfectly because of two things. I was living in London in the 70’s and if you want to see a country in a mass then you’re in it. I was told by everyone in London, from the financial times onwards that this man was a crazy man, an actor and there was no way he could be president. I said if he is I will go back. I left on the 19th. On the 20th I was in the White House, those days you didn’t need background checks. Tim Baker said is anyone here an international lawyer and I was the closest thing to it, so they had just signed the Iranian accords which was the agreement made to get the hostages out. Reagan get credit for that too because they thought he would do something crazy so they let them out. He was not cray but it worked. We then had this agreement and Reagan said do whatever you think is right and all the carter people wanted us to abide by it. Everything Reagan did he was a communicator and a delegator. He knew what direction you wanted to go and never wanted to be mean about anybody. The reason why he was so successful because he was just a nice guy. He loved (inaduble) I went on every trip with Reagan and I did four summits and I got to see how this man made foreign policy and controlled people. It wasn’t with deep substance, it was his ability to handle people. The first thing he said when he got there was we have two neighbors. We have Canada and Mexico, they are our most important neighbors. We went to Camp David with Mexico. I met with Haig and Jim Baker to go to Canada. It was just a few of us. The anecdote at the lunch was that ‘it was very Reagan” because that was how he organized foreign policy. You see Trudeau who wanted to be Secretary General of the United Nations so the first thing he said was I will make two states our of Palestine and Israel. This was 1981 so there was no discussion of this at the time. Reagan started to speak, Haig tried to interrupt him, but couldn’t and Reagan said “it will be just one more state to fight” and that was the end of the discussion. He then went on to bilateral things. He knew how to change the subject in his own polite way. We organized the only North-South Summit, this has never happened again. They wanted us to go to the UN and set up something which would have all the countries which did have money give it to the countries that don’t have money. Reagan, as you all know, was the catch a fish, don’t give a fish. Instead of being opposed to it, as most of his advisors said because he could get isolated, he went and I can tell you he charmed everybody. Even though no body agreed with him, he pulled it off and charmed everyone. In his summits in Canada, Versailles and Williamsburg he absolutely dominated them with his own nice personality. Even with what the Ambassador said about the Soviet Union, the basic rule was don’t ever insult anybody or any great power. Don’t insult them, he said they’re going to collapse. He was the only one. I went to every NSC meeting and they disagreed, I won’t name names now because they’re friends of mine and he said keep at with a strong military and don’t insult them. That was the way he was. In the end I guess, it as I was saying, a big difference between 1981 and today. We set us something called the US-China Joint Commission and we would go to China and all China would want to do is want to know how to we do it. If you met with Den Xiaoping all he wanted to know was how you (inaudible) ad Reagan loved him and Eagan loved the Chinese. At that point Ragan wanted to help them because they were just getting started and he wanted to help them. In the same way he wanted to help Iran after the hostages, let’s get them more involved in the world. His legacy for me was his personal quality; his charm. I will then go to the panel. Tom should I go to you?
Tom – Thank you for inviting me to speak this afternoon. It is fascinating to look at the contrasts between leaderships styles between different people. It’s amazing after doing a bit of reading and a bit of watching on Reagan’s style that there are a few words which really strike me when I think about it. His ethics – he comes out of a very strong protestant tradition and although he didn’t wear his religion heavily he certainly wore the ethics of his religion clearly. He understood right and wrong. This led to language which some in the west thought was simplistic, but actually it was a form of clarity and that was something the west lacked at the time. There was so much moral ambivalence. He brought clarity to what was actually evil. There are many ambassadors from countries which can speak very clearly about the evils of communism if you engage with them. Reagan brought that clarity. Another word which comes to mind is co-operation, we speak quite rights about Anglo-American cooperation and the special relationship, which in many ways he exemplified with his relationship with Margaret thatcher in the way which the Trident Deal was done so that the US bore significant amounts of the cost. We look at the way in which the cooperation was handled in various different fields. There were moments of friction and the Falkland Islands were one such moment where some of his cabinet were put not on our side and were very actively aiding the Argentine Government. He was clear that he was going to maintain the special relationship. We find ourselves in with a man who really understood the Anglo-us relationship, but also really understood NATO, really understood what it was for. He knew that partnership with Germany was about. In other examples he was very close to the French and worked very closely including the North South Conference with his French opposite number. This is a very high point in American internationalism in which Reagan realized that the maximum leverage is achieved with the maximum partnership. That was really quite something for someone who the FT and other said was an ear fight in the world of foreign policy. He really brought that clarity to it.
There is one other element about Reagan which really stands out and that is what the Ambassador has already talked about is showmanship. It is easy to think about showmanship being a loud mouth making a lot of noise, but that is not showmanship. That is a number of different things. It could be any number of different things. It could be bullying, it could be chutzpah, it could be any number of different things. What Reagan had was not that, what he had was showmanship. What I mean by that is that he knew how to put on a show that had a message. It wasn’t about bullying or one up man ship or putting someone else down. It was about exploiting the position of the United States and in some cases the wider western alliance. If you want an example of this, not rash crudities, look at the Geneva conference. When Gorbachev turns up, this is a guy 20 years younger than Breshnev who has died in the last three or four years. This is the young guy of the Soviet Union, a great hope of soviet leaders. Not tarred by the war, he was too young to serve in the war. Here is this great hope for the future and on the other side you have a 70 year old American, part of the arthropov generation. A hero in his own way for a generation which has now passed. For the media here is the young soviet taking on the old American. Actually Reagan the showman played a blinder. As they are getting out of the car, Reagan arrives early. Gorbachev arrives looking like the Soviet Leader of the time, wrapped in a big coat and scarf. Reagan comes out, having literally just taken of his overcoat because it was freezing. And Reagan comes out in just a suit looking 20 years younger than someone is 20 years younger than him. Now that’s political messaging and showmanship made to work. That’s extraordinary the ability to carry that message.
The other thing he had which was ignored at the beginning was strategy. He knew what he was trying to do. There was no surprise in his actions. Although some people who thought he was just an actor, the Washington insiders, thought he was a fool or uneducated or inexperienced. If you read his strategy’s and I did in preparation for this and his national security strategy of 82 and his national security director of 83. You see exactly what he is trying to do there. There is no surprise there, what he is trying to do is. He is trying to bring down the Soviet Union. He is trying to save the world from tyranny. First, he has seen the fact that American weakness encourages soviet expansionism. He looks at places like Afghanistan and expansion into Central America. You can read all of this, this is not the loose murmuring of the President in the night. This is not fired of in 140 characters. This is deliberate strategy. He thinks how am I going to take this on? And he does, he supports groups which promote us interests, liberation movements, freedom fighters. Some not always quite as nice as one would hope. He supports those who will fight the soviets. He does so deliberately to make their expansionism pay, to make their movement pay. To make them realise that it is not free for them. He instrumentalises human rights that is really powerful. What he does is constantly puts the soviets on the back foot with regard to human rights about organizations like solidarity in Poland, another group in Czechoslovakia, he engages in communications in various locations with dissidents and funds group like radio free Europe. On one level of course he is doing it, but on another more fundamental level, he was just a good guy. He believed in people, he believed in freedom. He knew if people couldn’t be oppressed by the violence that we saw in the 50’s and 60’s in the Soviet Empire. Those freedoms would rise up and those people would eventually overthrow their regime and that is exactly what happened. What a powerful message for all of us that free people do want free association and do want to command their own destinies. Interestingly, what he also do with that personal contact with Gorbachev was that he managed to convince the soviets that the Americans weren’t going to do a surprise attack, in the German sense on 1941, into the Soviet Union. That allowed Gorbachev when the walls started to creak to not feel as threatened as the previous generation and not to send the troops in. In reality the cold war was won by the right side. That is the lessons I take away from Reagan and the legacy that has meant to the Anglo-American relationship and a wider sense of internationalism, understanding of ethical foreign policy. I don’t mean virtue signalling, I mean supporting the virtues of liberty.
Mark Leland– It’s very true, it reminded me of people that should be mentioned in a discussion of Reagan is Shultz an (inaudible). He could not have done anything he did without those three people. He never had the House of Representatives in the whole time he was president. The house was also democratic. He had to know how to deal with people. As we have now turned to the financial times, from a financial element, I think what the ambassador said, I don’t know that everyone would agree. If you just saw taxes, deregulation and the Iranian agreement. The things he did were Reaganist. They are following in the Reagan tradition. I very much appreciate those comments those.
Gideon Rachman – Tom was extremely eloquent, so I think I will be briefer, but I would like to pick up on something the ambassador said about the ideological connection between Thatcher and Reagan. The 80’s were probably the last period when you could see a convergence between Britain and the United States in a way which actually helped to change the whole world. Thatcher came to power in 1979, Reagan came to power in 1980 and together their evident success albeit, not necessarily in easy circumstances, begun to change the ideology which people all around the world thought about running an economy and also where the momentum was in an ideological conflict which had been going on since the cold war. I liked Mark’s story about Den Zioping’s reaction to Reagan. It reminded me from a less elevated position, when I started my journalistic career in the 80’s. It was actually my first trip to Moscow was to see one an arms control negotiation (inaduble). It was very interesting to see the American delegation clearly intrigued about what was going on inside Russia. Something was clearly afoot. You mentioned George Shultz, he was coming out of a press conference, and he was a professor of economics, although he was secretary of state. He said I’ve just spend the most fascinated couple of hours of my life discussing economic reform with the deputy Russian prime-minister. The deputy Russian prime-minister was trying to figure out how you move from a command economy to a more private sector driven economy and he turned to Shutz to a discussion about economics even though he was secretary of state. That was a significant event, partly on a human level, but also an indication that the ideological wind was in the sails of Reagan’s America and to some extent thatcher’s Britain. The rest of world thought they were on to something and they needed to adapt. That was as powerful or maybe more powerful than any arms buildup with the sense that the momentum was with the West and Reagan did a huge amount in all sorts of ways. I did a little bit of research before this event in Reagan’s memoires and he wrote that when he initially met thatcher he initially thought during their first meeting that they intended to speak for only a few minutes, but spoke for several hours and ended up concluding that they were ideological soul mates. They wanted the same things and had similar assessments on what had gone wrong in the 1970’s – both domestically and in terms of foreign policy.
It wasn’t always plain sailing between Britain and the United States. You referred to the Falkland Islands. There is the question of Grenada where America intervened and Thatcher felt kind of bruised about that, but broadly speaking, they were on the same page. Interestingly for people who were both cold war warriors, they were quite quick to realise what Gorbachev meant and were prepared to take a risk against the more conventional establishment was saying hold on, don’t put weight on this one leader. They invested in a leader based upon instinct and thought they could do business with him. Again we talked about some of the parallels between him and the trump era. I do think there are parallels in the nervousness you see in the US establishment with what Trump is doing with Kim Jong Un and when you get two leaders are the leaders going to take a risk.
The ambassador alluded to the hostility with which Reagan was met with in Europe and it says a lot about the reaction to trump. You know I’ve written hostile things about trump, but I am aware in the back of my mind I wonder if am making the same mistake my colleagues made in the 1980’s. I was talking to a friend of mine who as a teenager was at the US embassy during the election night of 1980 and said he was sitting next to a prominent Labour politician who was actually in tears at seeing Reagan elected because they felt it was such a cataclysmic moment for the world. It was not just an ideological argument. People were scared about the risk of nuclear war. Reagan was met with considerable hostility. People mentioned the FT’s position and I genuinely don’t remember it. I was with the economist and by 1990 that was different, it was a centre right publication which defended Reagan at the time. The editor felt that not only was he going against the ideological wind but also against his own staff. Fighting a battle with the left wing instincts of his staff. The economist was always pro-Reagan it isn’t pro-trump. Whether the economist has changed or whether America has I will leave you to change. There is the question, Europe has always reacted with shock and horror to the American right because it is that much more to the right. It is the styles of trump and Reagan which makes it difficult for trump to win the argument in Europe. Reagan was implementing ideas which although were not agreed with had a certain universal appeal. If we look at those weekly clips of Reagan talking about freedom, man’s aspirations and the universality of the desire for democracy. That is a Universalist message opposed to an America first message. It may be appropriate for the times we are in, but it is less likely to appeal to the rest of the world. It is a tougher sell. What Mark said about don’t insult them but I will leave that for itself, it doesn’t tell us necessarily saying in 30 years about Trump which is a fascinating question. Whatever you think of him, in once sense he is a Reaganite figure in that he represents a real break with continuity and the ideas which we have got used to. Some think it is a disaster, some think it is what we need. We will see in 20 or thirty years’ time. The verdict of history has become kinder and kinder on Reagan who has you know, I mean the Berlin wall came down a year after he left. Whether he won the cold war as is often claimed or whether it had to do with the internal dynamics of the Soviet Union. There is an argument to be had, but he certainly set a tone which culminated with the fall of the Berlin wall. I think when people say make America great again, they are looking back at that period, not just of economic prosperity but also moral certainty about what the United States stood for. The world was initial reluctantly but came around to understanding that American had the wind in its sails not just intellectually, but morally by the end of the Reagan period.
Chair – He had also been governor of California, our largest economy, what he learned in California was to delegate well. Mrs. Thatcher was the opposite. She was a detail person. I used to debate the unitary tax with her. She would go into such detail. Now you wouldn’t debate the unitary tax with Reagan or trump. What happened is he set a tone. He knew where he wanted the economy to go. The problem we have to deal with is that they have t get the voters to vote for them and this is a different era. The whole idea is who they are running against. In Reagan’s case they really trust him, that’s what got him elected and trust is an important thing. Now I have a Canadian who knows Britain better than anyone else so I will turn it to Lyse Doucet.
Lyse Doucet – Britain and France are my former colonial masters, how can I bring myself to say I speak for the today. I have to say I had my arm twisted by Alan to come sit on this panel. I admit I am not a scholar on foreign policy as the two who spoke before me. I am neither British nor American so I cannot speak about the special relationship so I will humbly offer a few perspectives. Being both a Canadian and a journalist and the arc of the decades of the Reagan presidency is also the arc of the first years of me being a foreign correspondent. I will offer a few perspective going from the heat and the dust on the ground going from Canada, to chad to Afghanistan. I will begin not so long ago, once upon a time, in March 1981. President Reagan was in Ottawa because that is where he decided to make his first foreign policy trip. Not to London, but to Ottawa. Trump upended that tradition. I followed him to Riyadh and Jerusalem to follow him on his first foreign trips. May it just be noted that during the Reagan presidency, the relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia was described as a, “special relationship”. Back to march 1981, I was in Canada at the time and it’s quite interesting to look back and how nothing really changes. Canada and the United States then had a dispute over the environment, then acid rain. We were arguing over trade then it was automobiles. There was, as we heard, a Trudeau in power. Pierre Elliot Trudeau not Justin. Pierre Elliot was as liberal as you could be in Canada to get elected. Then there was Reagan the conservative. Here we are today with Justin Trudeau and Donald Trump. But alas, the similarities end there. President Reagan, did not have twitter, but he did have a diary. This is what he wrote after he went to parliament to see Prime Minister Trudeau. “Went to parliament to meet PM Trudeau. Discovered I liked him. We have some problems to be worked out to do with fishing, energy and environment.” But I believe that to convince them we must all find answers. He also said that he had a message for the Canadian people “we are your neighbors, we are your partners and we want to be your friends.” For Reagan’s presidency it was very much the personal and the political. It was that oozing personal charm and searing political conviction. There was at that time what came to be known as the Reagan doctrine. Tom referred to it. He espoused it in his state of the union address of 1985 when he pledged to support anti-communist revolutions the world over. We saw them the world over and perhaps the biggest battlefield of all against the mujahedeen in Afghanistan where they backed the rebels against the soviet backed government in the 1980’s. Back to the beginning of the Reagan presidency. That first month when Reagan started by going to Canada, he also started by playing a role in the very first war which I covered, Chad. A region where I spent 5 years. It was in chad during the Reagan presidency where the CIA became one of the main sponsored of a rebel leader, a desert warlord, by the name of Hissène Habré who became known as America’s man fighting against colonel Gadhafi on Libya. It became a joke then, people used to talk of the holy trinity of America’s biggest enemies which of course was Breznev in the Soviet Union, Castro in Cuba and Gadhafi in Libya. Gadhafi said he was fighting anti-imperialist causes which manifested itself in acts of international terrorism. Despite was at the time, persistent human rights abuses by President Habre’s forces, because he came to power in a coup with the help of America’s backing. His forces were known for extra judicial killings, disappearance’s, but because he was fighting Libyan forces was getting a constant stream of advanced weaponry including shoulder fired stinger missiles which rebel groups around the world were trying to get. His forces were also trained. It did the job. There were some 4,000 Libyan forces which were occupying northern chad. I happened to be in Chad in March of 1986 when Chadian forces scored a major victory over a base which was called (inaudible) which was full of Libyan troops. I was the only foreign journalist in Chad at the time, I was expelled the day after the victory and was described as ‘undesirable’ and I’m not sure if that as the verdict of the French foreign forces or the chadian government. The battle during the Reagan presidency where Hissène Habré was such a key ally, I don’t know I detail the amount of cooperation between Britain and the United States but some of you may know some of the more famous ones. Margaret thatcher authorized the use of British bases by us forces when they want o bomb targets in Libya, she said she would allow that under the UN charter of self-defense because it came after a terrible bombing at a Berlin discotheque where over 60 personnel were injured and one was killed. The year after Reagan invited Hissène Habré to the White House, you can see pictures in the library, ad he praised the relationship which he hoped would remain strong and productive. I think this is one of the examples of a foreign policy based upon short term interest or looking the other way because of broader strategic goals. As we know interests change, by the time it came to 2016, the US came to put Hissène Habré on trial for war crimes. He was no longer the ally he had been at a different time. Perhaps one of the most important examples during the Reagan presidency was the changing interest of the risks in Afghanistan. By the time I had arrived in Afghanistan, the CIA’s operation cyclone had become the longest and most expensive covert operation by the CIA. It was there in the 1980’s that we saw the special relationship between the US and Britain in full swing. In terms of the media there was daily briefing in Islamabad and Peshawar by the American and British embassy completely coordinated. On the battle field the Americans provided the shoulder fired anti-aircraft missiles, the British provided their equivalent of the blowpipes and played a major role in switching the course of the war. By the time I got to Kabul in the winter of 1988, we saw the American embassy pulling down the flag at the US embassy followed by the British who pulled down their flag and compound. A magnificent compound which was described as being worth five divisions. It was a kind of diplomatic synchrinisation between both countries to put pressure on the Afghan president hoping that when Soviet troops pulled out, the afghan government would simply come crashing down. Of course that didn’t happen until 1992 after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and when Russia pulled away the financial support which was keeping President Najibullah in power. I t was the singular focus in the heat of the cold war, the peak of the cold war, the end of the cold war, this focus on backing the Mujahedeen rebels and of course the way history evolved after that, I can’t go into all of the detail here the financing and training and more Islamism groups who were chosen not by the CIA, but by the Pakistani intelligence on the ground. They were some of the most effective groups, but that meant they became some of the most extremist groups there. Osama bin laden arrived there, Al Qaeda arrived there. I must say here, scholars have gone back to say that the US did not directly finance al Qaeda, or Bin Laden but that whole focus of backing the rebels to bring down the Soviet Union. I will never forget going to the US embassy in Islamabad in the winter of 1989. I saw the number two diplomat there and i asked him what now after soviet troops had left and he says what do you mean, the job is over, and we got the soviets out. Of course history has told us a different game. US troops are still in Afghanistan, fighting the new wars which came out of the unresolved old wars. To this day, the Mujahedeen leaders who are still alive take a lot of the credit for bringing down the Soviet power. As we said, some of that credit must go to Reagan, which isn’t the focus of this discussion. I think I will end with a quote from Thatcher, a quote from her eulogy at his funeral, because it brings us back to this thing, time and again, this fusion of the personal and the political in Reagan’s style of diplomacy. She said, “He won the Cold War, not only without firing a shot, but also by inviting enemies out of their fortress and turning them into friends. Yes he did not shrink from denouncing Moscow’s evil empire. But he replied that a man of good will might nonetheless emerge from within its dark territories. Gideon mentioned this as well about how Gorbachev was someone he could work with. Is there a Trumpian echo with trump also looking in his case to fall in love with leaders of troublesome regimes to achieve broader foreign policy objectives?
Chair – that is definitely a lot to chew on. Something which constantly comes to mind when thinking of that… I knew your father in the administration so not you, so I can’t talk to you at the time. But the point is the one phrase that comes with leaders and was tied to Reagan was ‘let Reagan be Reagan’ and you knew what it meant. You knew what let Thatcher be meant. Two things about both of them, not just Trump, but Macron, Merkel, don’t insult anyone in public. That’s what they both believed by being tough. Reagan could be tough but always in a way that nobody but they could see it. Now you get the last word.
Roger Zakheim – well I’m sure everyone is thrilled that I have the last word. I just want to make four points. The panelist lived up to Alan’s billing and really gave the richness of Reagan’s time in office. I am the director of the Reagan Institute and my full time job is to promote the legacy of Reagan and that’s what I’m doing now so i truly want to thank the President Reagan Memorial Fund Trust which was set up to put a statue of Reagan outside of the old embassy which I believe is coming to the new embassy. What I was going to say is the essence about what that statue is about. Not simply that lived in a moment in time, but to take the legacy and nurture and develop it and make sure it is relevant today. I think the panel did a fantastic job and my old friend at graduate school did a great job. One of the four pictures we have in our conference room is Reagan and Thatcher taking a walk at Camp David which to us symbolises the importance of the special relationship, the importance of the alliance. Thatcher was worried that Reagan would make some compromise in terms of arms control agreements and cut out the UK. This was a walk of reassurance. This sends a message that for a US president and for the US that we are strong when we are aligned with our allies and partners particularly with the special relationship. The last quote you had was spot on, clearly she clearly internalised and understood President Reagan. I think it’s so powerful who advocated peace through strength, who took defense budgets up to high levels, his legacy was winning a war without firing a shot. One of the panel referenced that, that we can debate it, i don’t think there is a debate. This notion that history would have played out and the Soviet Union would have just crumbled under carter. I think it is people and personality which decide events. Two other points. When you think about the US-UK relationship and what he did to advance that relationship, you have to go back to the Westminster speech. This speech delivered in 1982 when he had those famous word that democracy is not a fragile flower. He totally believed that freedom and democracy would prevail He created an infrastructure for it. Not just the infrastructure of CIA programs (inaudible) and others like giving the Mujahedeen weapons but was actually helping people searching for freedom around the world
Another picture we have in our conference room is of him and Pope John Paul, sitting in conversation, men of principle, and men of agenda, talking how they could advance the cause of religious belief in Poland. That is a legacy and motives which are worth promoting. I want to take it one level further, I have fun opportunities to talk to all sorts of people who served in the Reagan administration, one of those people who has been very kind with his time is Bud Mcfarlan, he was Reagan’s National Security Advisor, had a great run, toward the end he left under unfortunate circumstances. I was talking to him about SDI. The star wars programe, which was key to Reagan. Remember Reagan left the Reykjavik summit, on the cusp of an agreement to rid the world of nuclear weapons. Gorbachev said you had to get rid of nuclear weapons, Reagan would not give up. Can you imagine giving a speech to the American people on SDI. He said listen we had a lot on the table and a lot was up for negotiation except for two things. I will not negotiate our freedom nor will i negotiate our future away. For him DSI represented that. I was talking to McFarlan and said what does that earns what’s the connection between SDI and freedom. For him SDI was about defense and this counter to missiles but it was also the way in which he could defeat the Soviet Union through freedom, through economic freedom, through the power of innovation. That’s what he saw this as. That’s what he saw this as. That’s remarkable. That’s why he saw this as nonnegotiable.
Last point, what goes to the essence of Reagan and what all leaders, particularly today should do more of. It goes that point I made a moment ago about speaking to the American people. There’s this Edna Morris biography called Dutch, it’s horrible, total disaster, and reinforced the lefts view that…
Chair – I take full blame for getting….don’t ever get anybody who has never… he sat in every meeting for two years and wrote a great book about Teddy Roosevelt, but the problem is he didn’t understand politics
Roger Zakheim – there was this view that reinforced the left wing view that Reagan was not a sophisticated person. A showman in a positive light. The man wrote so much and for those years leading up to the presidency and for those years now, the director of policy planning who is responsible the ambassadors efforts here was responsible for publishing and in the introduction it is called Reagan in his own hand. And Shultz wrote the introduction. Her name is (inaudible) a Reagan scholar at the state department, Alan should have her over. Shultz writes, that he was going to give a speech on arms control and he was going into the oval office to share the speech with Reagan. And he goes ‘George great speech, but I don’t want to give it that way’. He says ‘what do you mean, truly, Mr. President”. Reagan replies that, ‘when you gave that speech, you gave that speech for the New York Times right, you want a review of people in Washington in the establishment inside the beltway group. When I give a speech, I am talking to the American people. People easily confuse that for lacking depth and substance. I think it captures a tremendous amount sophistication. To take complicated ideas like strategic defense cooperation. To talk about freedom and democracy in a way that lets people get behind it. Let me end with this, I think that’s what we’re lacking most right now, in this era of populism when we have democratic socialists being elected to congress. Francis Fukuyama wrote this essay at the end of the Cold War talking about the end of history. And everyone reflects on how wrong he got it because obviously history marches on and obviously not in the way he thought it would back at the end of the cold war. I riff on that, and the biggest tragedy at the end of history, and a generation in the West at large, have forgotten what Reagan came into office to do. What Reagan’s lifetime was about and how essential it was to have a deep and sophisticated understanding of freedom and democracy and if you can’t defend it and if you can’t promote it and understand those who seek to do it harm then we will all ultimately lose those values which we cherish. 30 years later after the end of history, President Xi thinks he has a better system to guarantee prosperity in China. Those of us, outside of the Henry Jackson Society, this embassy and those in the United States are having difficulty finding the language and the framework for defending and promoting the very value which was never more than a sentence or two away from anything that president Reagan did.
Chair – I actually should let Tom to say if people forgot what the 80’s were like, this is a country where people forgot what the 70’s were like. You just have to spend some time to figure it out. Do we have time for questions?
Question – This is for the American’s. My name is Carole Shaw. Now we used to have a program in this country called spitting image do you know about it? They were puppets of famous people, it was very funny. They did spoofs of Reagan’s and they did Gorbachev, but you know he had that a birth mark we’ll here he has a hammer and sickle. There was always this thing that there was a search for the president inside Reagan’s brain implying he didn’t have one. There was this thing when Reagan and Gorbachev were in front of a fire and Gorbachev says, “Reagan when I look into that fire I see our two nations working together for peace.” And Reagan replies, “oh god this is such fun, inside that fire I see a squirrel and a cat and a fluffy bunny can we carry on playing. That was the image they had of Reagan.
Chair – Do you have a question, we’ve heard this story before.
Questioner – No I don’t I’ll tell you the rest at another time.
Chair – This gentlemen at the front
Questioner – this is a point to pick up on the ambassador’s point about economic freedom and bottom up economics. Do you think we are in a position today to say that globalization is finishing and free trade is starting because it is bottom up economics and we are both in bilateral trade deals where we need domestic production? Are we going to lead the way to return production and the soul of our economy to our domestic nation’s rather than take it through whether the cheapest good is and however it is produced? Can America and the UK can show a different form of capitalism which is Adam Smith’s free trade?
Gideon – That doesn’t sound like free trade to me that sounds like protectionism.
Questioner – no its not. Its free trade with the finished good and with the domestic production because under bilateral trade deals intermediary imports are taxed at 25% in the Mexican deal, the Canadian deal and the Korean deal. You need domestic production to compete with exports.
Gideon – well I think that certainly that is partly what trump is trying to do whether he succeeds in bringing manufacturing industries back to the United States. We can argue that the technology has moved on. A lot of the new stuff can be done by robots not people that clearly is his vision. I don’t think that is where the May government is. I think that one of the reasons they have gone for the customs union if they manage to get it through is that they fear that if we don’t we will deindustrialize car factories. The Japanese have come here under the assumption that they can get access to the European market. The American’s are moving in a different direction.
Questioner – I am saying that is wrong.
Gideon – Yea I know.
Chair – We will take two questions now, this person then that gentlemen over there.
Question – Andrew ben Nathan, ordinary person, could the West have turned Russia into a friendly state?
Question – Hi, as in the 80s, both UK and US administrations were pro globalist and pro international cooperation. How do you think the transatlantic relationship will evolve or devolve at a time when both administrations are isolationists?
Tom – Well I will take the first one if I may. Look I think there was an opportunity there. We should be careful in criticizing the then US government. If you look at the amount of effort which was put into Russia in the immediate collapse of the Soviet Empire, if you look at the amount fo effort which went into the former soviet states and denuclearization programs which were put in in countries like Ukraine, there was an awful lot of effort put in. It wasn’t entirely success which is perfectly obvious, but it would be wrong to blame one side and not both. The Soviet Union which is what we not see as the kleptocratic Russian empire, not entirely the fault of the West. It is also to do with the collapse of the Soviet Union into sort of mafia states which have now emerged to take over an entire country.
Roger Zacheim – I get the whole notion of protectionism and isolationism and there are certain things which drive or support that narrative. That’s just not the way I view it. The United States is pausing a conservative Reagan internationalism which is not built on giving up your sovereignty to some multinational organization. Looking to protect your national interest and advance cooperation with their bilateral relationships. It is a great opportunity right now to strengthen the UK-US relationship. What I will say is there is some division over regional trade deals is a vehicle which advances the national interest of whether you give up too much of your own interest for some multinational cause. That is why TPP failed you should not misunderstand the US foreign policy at this point. It is absolutely bent on strengthening our bilateral relationships in a very Reaganist way.
Question – Hi thank you so much for organizing such a great event, my question is that Reagan saw the US as a light shining up on a hill. I was wondering what the panel thought about with the UK leaving the EU, we will see a greater cooperation between the US and UK to advance the cause of freedom and liberty?
Question – Thank you very much everyone, my name is Euan Grant, Institute for Statecraft, I have worked for, though not in EU programs in the ex-soviet states, never actually Ukraine. My question is based upon the best description I can give on some of those missions is that they weren’t exactly the Entebbe raid. Where do you see elements within the continental European EU member states and the collective institutions of the European Union which are particularly strong in maintaining security and economic and political links with the Reaganite/Thatcher ethos which you mentions because from what I saw, I was very worried about civilian EU Brussels resentment of the United States and a failure to understand the bad men are back and you have new kids on the block and new men in china and hard men in Russia. I do see a worrying naivety in civilian Brussels and elements of the major western EU member states. Are there any institutions, organizations or individuals which can counteract that, I don’t think we are making full use of the Anglo sphere financial system.
Gideon – The main institution would obviously be NATO, but it’s a slightly troubled organization because at various times the US president has expressed skepticism about the way it is worrying. It remains probably the main institution plugging the United States into the transatlantic system. For all the anxiety about trump in many EU states there’s none rushing to get out of NATO. I think although there is a…it’s a difficult period in NATO history, but the commitment on both sides is pretty deep. In terms of using Anglo-American financial institutions to push back against Brussels I don’t think so. If you look at the big banks, the big American banks in the UK, they want us to stay in the EU. They think its madness for us to leave. I don’t know if they’re right or wrong about that. I am probably more on their side than the other side, but that is certainly their view. They’re not pushing for some anti-EU thing, on the contrary. The role of those banks in Trumps world view is an interesting one, because to some extent globalism is sometimes seen as a code for Wall Street and so on. There are officials within the Trump administration who have been occasionally quite hostile to Wall Street’s influence to policy. You look at Peter Navaro speaking just last week who was arguing American finance is actually undermine the Presidents policy towards China. On the other hand you have people like Steve Mnuchuin the treasury secretary has a background at Goldman Sacks. I think that the relationship is more ambiguous that it has been that during the Reagan years.
Chair – I think my boss here, Alan, wants to wrap it up.
David Berens (trustee of the President Reagan Memorial Fund Trust) – That you to his Excellency the ambassador for hosting this event in this wonderful building. Or the panel for a most enlightening discussion to the Henry Jackson Society for facilitating this event and all of you for coming. I think you will agree that the panel discussion has demonstrated that despite their being new challenges and threats remain relevant today. November 16th will mark 30 years since the last state dinner which Margaret Thatcher attended during the presidency during of Ronald Reagan. Indeed, it was the last state presidency. President Reagan became the leader he was by standing against Communism as it was making its last stand. He entered the free world at a critical moment and his words penetrated into the darkness of totalitarianism. To the world, the United States was the beacon of hope on earth. In his speech at the state dinner Reagan outlined the following three themes which lay at the heart of his foreign policy. First, and I quote, ‘we can hope that the altruism which stands at the heart of the alliance of democratic nations of the post war era will continue to bear fruit until the whole world is free. Secondly, the centrality and I quote, “the NATO alliance, an alliance of mutual security and shared responsibilities which has preserved the peace and provided the foundation for the longest period of growth and prosperity in Europe’s history.” Finally, the need for vigilance in defense of our liberties in advancing the cause of human rights. Beyond Europe’s boundaries Britain and America to advance an ideal and return to democracy for so many nations which have lost it. We are encouraging a democratic tide around the world he said, in Asia, Latin America, Africa as well as Eastern Europe. In her gracious response to President Reagan’s speech, Thatcher concluded that, “the nature of mankind is such that the struggle for freedom can never be over, but it is a tribute and a testament to your presidency, as you leave office and make your way westward back to California, we know that you have brought to fulfillment the famous prophecy of an English poet, and “and not by eastern windows only, when daylight comes in the light, the sun climbs slow, but how slowly, westward look, the land s bright”. Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream, it must be fought for, protected and handed on for them to do the same. I hope as one of the trustees of one of the President Reagan Memorial Fund Trust which helped put the statue of Reagan in Grosvenor square. Today’s forum will inspire all of us to meet that challenge in the future.
Chair – Thank you Mr. Ambassador and thank you to all our panelists. Reagan would have had a joke to say for every comment, I guarantee that, he would have had something relevant to say which was also amusing. We had an excellent panel and I think we can go home feeling good about the world, certainly about Ronald Reagan.